In direct response to the original premise of the exhibition – ” Work in Progress ” , the arts being under attack in education – I’d like to make the following point. There is the old adage that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. And also the quote that “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.” – Oscar Wilde.
I don’t think that art education has the ability to produce creativity that was not there in the first place. Of course it provides a valuable grounding in the theory and the mechanics of all facets of art, but the spark has to be there in some way, before it can be kindled. I’d love books such as John Berger’s “Ways of seeing” to be required reading in schools in the same way that ‘An Inspector Calls” is. Education in the arts can be a massive eye opener for many, but how much basic art education is necessary for those who genuinely don’t have a creative bone in their body? I feel that art education’s most valuable asset, both in schools and in tertiary education, is time. Time to think, to reflect, to produce without expectation, to mess up, in a way that other facets of education don’t posses. They are more concerned with skills and information. With art education, the nurturing of something that people very often don’t realize themselves that they have is so important. For many it’s the feeling that there is something that needs to be said, in the same way as writing, which might come after the realization that this is important to them. It might never occur to the individual that they have something worth giving or saying, it needs to be coaxed out of them, and in a society that doesn’t always value that as much as the financial benefits of other paths, that can be a struggle to find in the first place. So much can be repressed and squashed by the time we get to our teenage years, when doodling and musings have to give way to serious work. Doodling and musings ARE serious work.
I’m aware that I’ve been extremely lucky to have had the arts education that I have, through GCSE, A levels and then five years at art college. And everything I’ve learned since. Along with the support from my parents and family to spend time on what often must seem like a selfish exercise – I’m eternally grateful for my early creative education, with input from very different teachers, who variously taught me about colour -Miss Rabey, about tone and shading – Mrs Susanne White, and one who let me cut pictures out of magazines for whole double lessons, without ever saying it was a waste of time. Possibly the most valuable thing I ever learned to do. Yay for Miss Sarah Nicolle.
My Own Personal Rainbow – Why do we sometimes become so staid in our choices of colours? Some colours are obviously more wearable than others, depending on our skin tones, hair colour etc, but many of us covet colour and never wear it, are we missing the benefits, the mood enhancing value of an uplifting shirt, dress or tie? Or even a notepad, a coffee mug – we don’t always have to wear it. This can have an effect on those around us too, not just on ourselves. Don’t we owe it to ourselves and society to take steps to boost our mood with our palette when we get dressed, and present ourselves?
For this project I’ve decided to go old school and work in a sketchbook, using pens, scalpels, glue and photocopied images. No digital here, I’ve taken photos and made studies of the colours, then used those images to directly translate into the necklaces. I do usually use precious metals in my work, but simply for their colour – precious and semi precious stones are hard to beat. 3D artists still need a grounding in 2D, so I usually start with colour images and build up from there, but I rarely sketch in 2D, I usually prefer to make models, but for this project I again found myself just using the pictures as a kind of palette. Something that I’ve done for a few years subconsciously, and in the last three years I have made a feature of. I originally wanted to explore the use of colour and how it, along with texture, changes our perception of objects. I found, however that it became much more personal than that. I’ve been inspired by my own art education, starting with Miss Rabey at the Girl’s Grammar school in 1984. I wanted to go back to my childhood and look again through that same prism, to see if I could get to the base of my colour perception, and how it set me on my journey. My own colour theory.
This exhibition presented the opportunity to really examine my own response to colour, and along the way it bought up a few things that I’d previously not considered fully. I worked in a fashion boutique as a teenager, and during my University years, immersed in fashion as much as you can be on an eternal students budget. Colour had always been a large part of my College work, and when I finished college and started to market my work, I quickly realized that although colour attracts lots of attention, it doesn’t always sell. There is an established commercial path, via websites, galleries, stalls and events, even etsy shops, where I’ve found this to be true. Exhibitions allow a certain sense of freedom from the constraints of selling my work, so it’s always a welcome medium in which to have free rein. I love to use sparkle in my work, but subtle colour is what sells.
As a visual artist I’m always fascinated when people ask the question “Where do you get your inspiration from? “ I want to say, “Step outside and look around you.” (Actually I see colours when my eyes are closed, and I often dream in colours, but I digress). At this time of year how can you fail to help but notice all the colours, and the new shapes emerging? How can you not be inspired by nature’s amazing and beautiful combinations? Green leaves against a blue sky. Yellow petals against brown earth. Greenery was the starting point for this. Looking out of the window at the start of the project back in February. And realizing I was responding to colour in a certain way. Why do we do this, here should come the science, but instead I’ve decided to be more personal that that. Ultimately the way we process colour is completely personal and individual, scientifically.
We have certain ingrained responses to particular colours, red=danger, Green makes us feel clean, new fresh, synonymous with new life and spring growth. I wonder how much of the effects of colour can be political, party colours, football colours, school uniform colours. Even red lipstick during the war years.
The background picture to many of these colour studies is a sunrise I photographed from my house in January 2016, which has influenced so much of my work in the last 18 months. Containing purple, pale prison pink, baby blue, the new black, safe navy, fiery red and yellow, as well as greys. Absolutely all my favourite colours – but no sign of greenery. That new usurper. No wonder I love to gaze at this photo while I work. I’m looking at my life illustrated in colour. All these colour studies, the essays, had been already completed, before I put the sketch book together, but I realize this for absolutely the first time only as I type this, my stream of consciousness that has been committed to type on 13th May 2017. This first essay, my personal rainbow, has been written as a post script to the rest. So how is that possible that I only see that now, that I only just realized that all these colours are present in that one photo that I love so much? I genuinely can see all those colours in the picture, together as if for the first time. But they are all my own colour history, my personal journey through colour theory, my own made up version of colour theory. This is what I realize I’ve learned through the 33 years since that very first colour theory lesson in the sunny art studio with Miss Rabey in September 1984.
The whole circle of the rainbow seems complete, my own personal rainbow.
This essay was written as a part of our colour theory essay collection – to read them all click here. We have also had the pleasure of being involved with exhibitions where we have displayed our colour theory work such as Perceptions 2017 at the Harbour Gallery in Jersey.